As a young Jewish kid, I regularly saw gorgeous photos of towering croquembouche (What’s the plural of croquembouche? Croquembouches? Croquembi? Anyways!), but since they aren’t a traditional Jewish dessert, I never got to try one. Well, today, I’m changing that forever! I’ve taken the beautiful traditions of Chanukah food and combined them with the method and aesthetic of croquembouche, which means, I doughnut-fied it. Instead of the traditional choux pastry to make cream puffs, I’ve fried up a few dozen doughnut holes! Then, I use a high quality store-bought jam to fill and assemble mini doughnut hole pyramids before drizzling them with even MORE jam and a generous dusting of powdered sugar. You know what’s better than one doughnut hole? SEVEN! And you know what’s better than a giant croquembouche that you have to share? A mini, personal one that you can eat all to yourself! These are perfect for entertaining throughout the winter holidays, and if you celebrate Christmas, give doughnut holes a try in your croquembouche instead of choux pastry. Happy Personal Dessert Season and Happy Chanukah!
For the Doughnuts
- 1 (¼ ounce) package active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water (about 100°F)
- ¾ cup milk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups (520 grams) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- Vegetable oil, for frying
For Filling, Assembly and Garnish
- 3 cups jam of choice, divided (I use 2 jars of Blueberry Bonne Maman brand)
- Powdered sugar, for serving
- In a small saucepot over low heat, add milk and butter, and cook until the butter melts, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to 95°F – 105°F.
- While milk and butter mixture cools, pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast over the water and allow to proof for 5 minutes.
- Once yeast has proofed, add egg, sugar, salt, warm milk mixture, and half the flour to the bowl. Mix on low until well combined, 1-2 minutes. Add remaining flour, then increase speed to medium. Mix until a ball of dough forms and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, 2-3 minutes. If dough does not cleanly pull away from the sides of the bowl, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix on low for 1 minute. Repeat this process until dough clears the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading for about 4 minutes, or until dough is fairly smooth and elastic.
- Place dough in a large, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Once dough has risen, turn out onto a clean work surface and divide roughly in half. Gently roll one half into a long, 1-inch thick log, and then cut into 1-inch long pieces, so that you’re left with roughly 1 x 1 inch pieces of dough. (Note: 1 half of the dough will roll out to be 3+ feet long, so if work space is limited, cut dough into quarters before rolling.) Gently gather and pinch rough edges of each piece together at the top to form a rough ball, then roll ball over so that the pinched edges are against your work surface. Use a cupped hand to roll the ball in small, tight circles against your work surface to seal the edges together and form a smooth ball of dough. Repeat process with second half of the dough.
- Place dough balls on a parchment-lined sheet pan, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rise until slightly puffed, 20 to 30 minutes.
- While the dough rises, preheat 2 inches of oil in a large, deep pot to 375°F and set a racked sheet tray nearby. Once dough is risen and oil is preheated, use a spider or large slotted spoon to gently add about 6 dough balls to the oil. Fry, tossing constantly for even cooking, for about 1 minute, or until puffed and golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack, and continue working in batches until all doughnut holes are fried. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before filling.
- Transfer one jar of jam into a large plastic bag with a ¼ inch cut from a corner, or pastry bag fitted with a ¼ inch round tip.
- Use a skewer to poke a hole in the center of each doughnut hole and gently swirl the end of the skewer to make room for the jam. Slowly fill each doughnut until jam begins to seep out, then set aside, hole side up.
- In a small saucepot, heat ½ cup jam over medium heat, stirring often, until slightly thickened and darkened in color, about 5 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to transfer reduced jam to a heatproof bowl. Rinse saucepot out, fill with about 1 inch of water, then place back on stove over medium low heat until simmering. Place bowl of reduced jam in saucepot to create a double boiler so that the jam stays pliable.
- Working as quickly as possible, dip the hole-side of a doughnut into the thickened jam and press it against another doughnut. The thickened jam will hold them together. Attached two more doughnuts, so that you have a square bottom layer made of 4 doughnut holes. Using the same method, create a layer made from 3 doughnuts in a triangle shape, and place it on top of the square. Finally, dip one doughnut into the thickened jam, and place it on top of the second layer to form a pyramid. If layers are not stable enough to stack immediately, allow them to set for about 5 minutes on a flat surface before stacking.
- Repeat until all doughnut holes are used, creating 6 to 7 mini croquembouche, depending on the number of doughnut holes you have.
- To garnish, heat ½ cup jam in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until loose and pourable. Use a spoon to drizzle croquembouche with jam, then top with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.